In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott ponders the importance of welcoming strangers, both in our churches and in our lives.
This Wednesday’s sale features Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.
Dear friends in Christ,
A couple of days ago I saw a Facebook friend post about her experience visiting a church. Lots of us do that during the summer as we travel. Anyway, her experience was not good. No one spoke with her. No one welcomed her. No one invited her to coffee hour. No one said they’d love to see her again next week. Now, she was just passing through, but her experience does raise an important question. Are we surprised our churches aren’t growing?
My guess is that if I called the church office my friend visited and spoke with the staff or some members, they would assure me that their church is very friendly and welcoming. And they wouldn’t be wrong. I’m sure the regular members there have a wonderful greeting each Sunday. But clearly, this church misses the mark with guests.
We need to do better. For one thing, welcoming guests is the basic stuff of healthy church development. There are lots of resources out there, from Forward Movement and others, to help with this. But that’s not the best reason to welcome guests. In Matthew 25, we read Jesus’ teaching about welcoming strangers. Now, I’m quite sure Jesus wasn’t thinking of welcoming people to houses of worship when he said that welcoming strangers is a core value for those who want to live righteous lives. But I am also quite sure that welcoming strangers is always important, in any setting. Jesus ranks it right up there with feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Yes, it’s that important.
This summer, as you travel, make note of your experience when you visit churches. Are you learning things that you can bring home? And how is your congregation welcoming strangers? Can you improve? Welcoming strangers and offering hospitality is great fun — and the wonderful side effect is that our churches will begin to grow.
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